Even teletext got in on the Berlin Wall celebrations. ARD Text broadcast a series of pages reporting the news from thirty years ago, emulating the look of their text service in 1989. Can it get any more 1980s than that?
The centerpiece of the Mauerfall 30 events was a huge free concert to be held at the Brandenburg Gate on the evening of Saturday 9th November. Since I was in Berlin for the 30th anniversary, it seemed logical to attend.
Security was extremely tight. I had been on the Unter den Linden boulevard earlier in the day, and the whole area of the concert was enclosed in a ring of steel. On the platforms of Brandenburger Tor S-Bahn station, DB security staff with loud hailers were directing passengers to a specific exit – all the others being locked. The Brandenburg Gate itself was behind a security cordon with stern Polizei blocking access. Necessary measures, no doubt, but slightly ironic, considering what the city was celebrating.
Saturday 9th November 2019 was a momentous day in the history of Berlin. Yes, it was the one day a month that the Berlin U-Bahn Museum is open. By pure luck, its opening day coincided with my weekend in Berlin, so it was a natural choice to while away a few hours on Saturday afternoon.
I arrived at Olympia-Stadion station on the U2 line, to find stands of football scarves and fast food being set up in the ticket hall. Hertha Berlin were due to play at home later that day, and some fans were arriving early. While most made a beeline for the nearby stadium, I headed for the welcoming doorway to the museum, sandwiched between two replica train cabs.
I last visited Berlin in May 2018, and was starting to feel the itch again. When the cream failed to clear it up, it was obvious that I needed to visit.
I was initially reluctant to venture abroad again, so soon after #TågFärjetur, but the weekend of 8-11 November was the perfect time to go. The city was hosting a series of special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, under the heading Mauerfall 30.
Even at two weeks’ notice, EasyJet (sorry Greta) was offering reasonable prices, so off I went.
Tuesday 22nd October Copenhagen Metro lines M2 and M3 1850 Manchester Airport to Liverpool South Parkway
It was our LAST DAY (wah) in Copenhagen. Time and expense meant that taking the train back home was not a practical option, so we had a flight from Copenhagen Airport to Manchester booked for later on Tuesday afternoon.
Before that, though, we had just a little bit more time to check out Copenhagen. Bags were safely stowed in the hotel’s left luggage room, another day ticket purchased, and we descended into the Metro for the millionth time that trip.
Monday 21st October 11.47 Copenhagen Hovedbanegård to Malmö centralstation
Our previous hotels had the arrangement with a double bed that can be pulled slightly apart to make two single beds (that six inch gap instantly removing any suggestion of sexual intimacy).
Our Copenhagen hotel, however, had a double bed with a bunk bed precariously above. Paul immediately volunteered to be on the bottom, leaving me to clamber up to the bunk – which had NO railings to prevent falling out should I toss during the night.
It only occurred to me later that this arrangement was probably intended for a small child, with parents in the double bed below. Thankfully, the bed was still able to support my not insignificant weight – I doubt Paul would have appreciated me on top of him.
Thankfully there were no incidents during the night, and we awoke on Monday refreshed and ready to go. The plan for the day was to cross the Øresund Bridge into Sweden and visit Malmö. Before that, though, we decided to spend a little more time on the Copenhagen Metro.
Sunday 20 October (continued) We rode the Copenhagen Metro quite a bit
For one day only, our dynamic duo became a terrific trio. Joining us for the afternoon in Copenhagen was Mads, who knows Paul thanks to their mutual membership of the Talyllyn Railway. For several weeks each year, Mads makes the journey from Denmark to volunteer on one of the Great Little Trains of Wales. Now that is dedication.
Paul had cajoled Mads into being our tour guide for the day. The slight problem with this plan is that Mads doesn’t live anywhere near Copenhagen. It was like expecting someone from Bristol to successfully show people around Manchester, but I’m pleased to report Mads rose to the occasion and only got lost on two or three occasions.
We were back at Hamburg Hauptbahnhof on Sunday morning for the next leg of our journey, the EuroCity train from Hamburg to Copenhagen. As I mentioned in part 1, this was the centrepiece of our whole trip, and our chance to experience one of the few remaining train ferries in the world.
Day 2 (Saturday 19 October) continued: 13.16 Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof to Hannover Hauptbahnhof 15.59 Hannover Hauptbahnhof to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof
I had told Paul all about the train information posters that most German railway stations have. On each platform, a list of every train that will stop there, with a diagram showing how many coaches it will have, and exactly where on the platform you need to stand for your coach. DB can do this, I said confidently, because they are well-organised and it is rare for platforms and train formations to change at short notice.
Then our ICE train to Hannover arrived in a completely different formation to that shown on the poster, and stopped in a completely different position. Oh well.
Day 2 (Saturday 19 October): 09.13 Cologne Hauptbahnhof to Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof
“That’s an interesting connection,” remarked the guard on train IC2441, as he checked our ticket. It was a masterpiece of understatement; I imagine it’s not every day he sees a ticket for a journey lasting nearly two days, artificially lengthened with an extended stop in Wuppertal, of all places.
Paul and I both tried to explain, but how to communicate what we were doing? This is the third blog post in a series, and I’m sure many of the people reading this still don’t really understand.
I was childishly excited to be on the top deck of a Doppelstok train from Cologne to Wuppertal, although disappointed that we would only be on board for 30 minutes. I suppose I could have stayed aboard to the train’s ultimate destination of Dresden, where we would have arrived a mere seven hours later, at 16.39, but I suspect the novelty might have worn off by then. Nevertheless, it was thrilling to have an elevated viewpoint as we glided across the Hohenzollern Bridge out of Cologne to our next stop.
Day 1 (Friday 18 October) continued: 15.04 London St Pancras to Brussels Midi 18.25 Brussels Midi to Cologne Hauptbahnhof
As we approached St Pancras, Paul was excited at the prospect of seeing the Spice Girls’ Entrance.
That’s not some weird euphemism – the video for their debut single Wannabe was filmed in and around the station’s Grand Hotel. Even if you don’t recognise it, the caption “St Pancras Grand Hotel” appearing 6 seconds in gives the game away.
Incidentally, while writing this blog post, I looked up when this song came out, and it turns out it was in NINETEEN NINETY SIX, which is impossible because I remember it from when I was young, and I’m STILL YOUNG NOW, DAMN IT.